Watch this physicist debunk “Fast and Furious” stunts you already knew were impossible
We all love a good car movie, and a staple of any high-horsepower enthusiast flick is a chase scene with copious drifting, smashing, and/or explosions. Watching a movie often requires a certain amount of suspending disbelief, especially when it comes to the action genre, but there’s a certain franchise that demands a complete rejection of the laws of physics. We are, of course, referring to the beloved Fast and Furious franchise. How unrealistic are some of the more famous Fast stunts? Outrageous enough that listening to a physicist tear them apart is pretty entertaining.
You don’t need to be told that any one of these stunts would almost definitely kill any individuals involved were it to happen in real life, but Diandra Leslie-Pelecky brings actual expertise as a physicist to really break these scenes down. Leslie-Pelecky is familiar with the automotive world; she’s the author of The Physics of NASCAR and is a regular guest on Dave Moody’s SiriusXM Speedway show.
Before you grab that bag of Orville Redenbacher’s from the microwave, she doesn’t tear everything apart. Fast 7 features Paul Walker’s character running up the side of a bus as it is falling off a cliff, and Leslie-Pelecky likens this action to running up the down escalator in a mall. So long as he can run faster than the bus is falling, he stands a chance to make it. Leslie-Pelecky does, however, question the ability to jump off the bus and catch the tubular rear bumper of the Dodge Charger drifting right over the edge, but she clarifies that it’s not impossible—just very unlikely.
What would be totally impossible? How about the Buick Grand National slipping underneath a rolling fuel tanker trailer in the opening of Fast & Furious (2009). As Leslie-Pelecky points out, a tanker trailer like the one depicted can haul up to 11,000 gallons of gasoline. Factor in that gasoline is just over six pounds per gallon in weight and the likelihood of that trailer rolling or bouncing high enough for a car to drift under it becomes absurd.
Of course, movies like The Fast and The Furious are pure Hollywood blockbusters, and we watch to be entertained more than educated. While the franchise has lost the plot a bit (and the films no longer center around cars nor the automotive lifestyle), you could say the same for several James Bond movies, which we love all the same. After all, even with CGI, the way action sequences dazzle the imagination is the main appeal. Real-deal stunts are rare—and all the more impressive.